When you're in a coffee shop, it can be tempting to treat yourself to a muffin along with your drink.
And a new study suggests that this temptation is sparked more by seeing someone else enjoying a treat, than by a lack of willpower.
The researchers hope their findings will help to develop more effective plans to prevent people from overeating.
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Researchers found that momentary cues, such as seeing someone else enjoying a treat, were more strongly associated with how much people snacked than their own psychological traits and intentions (stock image)
61 participants were asked to complete baseline psychological measures, including how much they think about the benefits of health eating.
They also rated their intentions to eat more healthily, how often they eat their five-a-day, and their levels of willpower.
Over the course of two weeks, the participants used an app to record any times they ate food, and whether it was a snack or main meal.
They were prompted to record any situational cues, such as whether snacks were available, whether they could see anyone else snacking, and whether they were near a shop.
The app also beeped at random times through the day and asked the participants to record the presence of any of these same situational cues.
Results showed that participants reported the presence of other people snacking more often when they had just logged their own snacking than when they were prompted randomly by the app.
This indicates that seeing other people snack could cause you to snack
Researchers from the University of Tasmania looked at what influences people to snack, based on the fact that around 30 to 41 per cent of people's daily energy intake comes from snacking, rather than from proper meals.
They found that momentary cues, such as seeing someone else enjoying a treat, were more strongly associated with how much people snacked than their own psychological traits and intentions.
In their study, published in the British Journal of Health Psychology, the researchers, led by Katherine Elliston, wrote: 'Discretionary food intake is largely guided by momentary cues, and motivational-level factors, such as intention and self-regulation, are less important in the initiation of discretionary food intake.'
The study involved 61 participants, who were asked to